Basson blows World Cup cover-up

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

A member of Cricket SA’s (CSA) transformation committee has contradicted in Parliament the board’s insistence that they did not interfere in selection for the World Cup semi-final by sending SA team management a message to pick enough players of colour.

And a psychologist says festering unhappiness with administrators could explain SA losing the one-day series and being dominated for much of the first test in Bangladesh.

The minutes of a June 2 meeting between the Portfolio Committee for Sport and Recreation and an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) record that DA MP Solly Malatsi asked the EPG’s Willie Basson, who sits on CSA’s transformation committee, for “his views on the pace of transformation or lack thereof in (cricket), especially regarding the composition of the … team that had competed in the recent … World Cup”.

According to the minutes, “ … (Basson) said there had been mistakes on the side of cricket’s administration, where it had sent a note to the team management on the eve of the semi-final, reminding them about (CSA’s) policy on demographic representation. That had been a costly mistake because the reminder should have been drilled into the management team during the preparations for the World Cup.”

New Zealand won the hotly contested semi-final by four wickets with a ball remaining on March 24. Four days earlier SA had thumped Sri Lanka by nine wickets in their quarter-final.

The only change for the semi was the inclusion of Vernon Philander at the expense of Kyle Abbott.

Philander struggled with a hamstring injury for much of the tournament and had bowled 20.3 out of a possible 70 overs before the semi-final – in which he left the field after sending down eight of his 10 overs.

Abbott was SA’s leading bowler at the World Cup in terms of average, economy rate and strike rate.

Philander, who at that stage had taken 121 wickets in 29 tests, is among the world’s finest bowlers. However, his credibility has been unfairly and cynically damaged by the suspicion – created solely by his forced selection for the semi-final – that he is a quota player.

CSA’s initial denial of interference was published on March 31. But, on April 18, under mounting pressure, they admitted that chief executive Haroon Lorgat had been “consulted” about the make-up of the team by then selection convenor Andrew Hudson and coach Russell Domingo.

Two weeks before the EPG meeting CSA met with the same committee in Parliament and dismissed the World Cup selection controversy as “mischief media reports (that) caused regrettable harm”.

But, according to psychologist Mike McInerney, the consequences could be serious.

“The chances of what happened at the World Cup affecting the players are very high in terms of the stability of the system and the trust the players have in that system,” McInerney said.

“Both would have been damaged by what happened and it is likely to have had a ripple effect in Bangladesh. The players will feel their ownership of the team has been affected by the outside interference.

“The administrators need to demonstrate that they won’t interfere.”

Basson and CSA did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

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